MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Malacañang urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) not to trust the testimony of two self-confessed hitmen over the word of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The testimonies of Edgar Matobato and retired cop Arturo Lascañas were heavily cited as evidence of Duterte's involvement in extrajudicial killings in a complaint filed by lawyer Jude Sabio with the ICC on Monday, April 24.
"It would really be deeply disappointing if the Court took the word of admitted murderers as the basis of action against a head of state who was democratically elected by a Filipino electorate," said Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella during a Tuesday press conference at the Palace.
Abella echoed sentiments of Senate majority bloc leaders who believe the complaint is doomed to fail.
"As far as we can see, it has no basis for prospering," he said.
He called on the President's critics to accept the consequences of waging a war against drugs.
"You need to understand that the Presdent is waging war on a brutal enemy, the drug war, the drug dealers and drug lords who prey upon our people," said Abella.
He emphasized the strong support for the anti-drugs campaign from Filipinos who backed Duterte in the 2016 elections because they want "nothing more than an end to an epidemic that has afflicted millions of our countrymen and women."
The Palace has blasted the 78-page complaint, calling it an attempt to "embarrass and shame" Duterte.
Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, among those named in the case, downplayed the chances of the case at the ICC.
“Napakagago ng ICC kung maniwala sila sa abogado na iyon. Sino magsabi na state-sponsored pagpatay (The ICC would be really stupid if they believe that lawyer. Who says that the killings are state-sponsored)?” Dela Rosa said.
When asked, the PNP chief said he is ready to cooperate with any ICC investigation. "Wala tayong tinatago (We have nothing to hide.)"
The President himself is yet to comment on the complaint. In the past, he had boasted about killing and ordering killings of criminals.
He has also maintained that extrajudicial killings are not state-sanctioned.
Abella also advised the public to wait for updates on how the government will address the complaint formally, if at all.
In a statement, Solicitor General Jose Calida said, “As to the element of the manner of commission, since there is no State-sponsored plan or policy, the situation does not fall within the scope of the ICC’s mandate." – with reports from Bea Cupin/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.